The afternoon mailbox has plenty more views on the fixture list. Plus, a sublime piece of skill from Emile Heskey, more cool 'ballers and dull football matches...
A Gooner in the Mailbox seems to genuinely think that the world/fixture computer is against his team. Sigh. That, plus more cool footballers & Mike Ashley: Supervillain...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who's Better? Sturridge Or Welbeck?
As a Liverpool fan, even I think the comparison of Welbeck to Kuyt does the United man a bit of disservice. I absolutely loved Dirk, but fact is his ridiculous work ethic only masked his limitations in pace, technique and an average strike rate. And that was as the 'finished article' when he arrived at LFC at around 27. At 23, Welbeck has plenty of time to develop into a more reliable goalscorer but the rest is there.
The comparison I prefer at the centre of an argument between myself and a United-supporting mate. Welbeck was partnered by our new boy Sturridge for the England U21s a couple of years back and the similarities struck me then. Same age, similar attributes, both looking to carve out a role for a top club following successful loans at mid-table sides. And both had something of an attitude that I really disliked, only I always felt Welbeck flew under the radar a little whilst Sturridge was developing something of an enfant terrible reputation.
Similar seasons back at their parent club last season (12 and 13 goals) again seemed to suggest they were on a par. Fast forward a few months and obviously things are a little different, having not paid much attention I can't say why things went so horribly wrong for Sturridge at Chelsea but since his arrival at Anfield he's shown none of the ego and me-first attitude as part of the reputation that preceded him. And obviously he is delivering the goals we so desperately needed. So it's natural that I've warmed to him a bit, and I won't hide my bias so whilst I still rate Welbeck I'll take Sturridge at this point. Now my mate instantly hates anyone to pull on a Liverpool shirt, and is quite possibly just on a wind-up, but thinks the comparison is ridiculous and that Welbeck continues to feature regularly United whilst Sturridge left City then 'flopped' at Chelsea is all the proof you need he is a far superior player.
The only difference here is Fergie, a master at nurturing his young players, sheltering them from negative attention whilst not letting them get too big for their boots. He's done a good job with Welbeck accordingly, which largely shapes the outside perception of him. Sturridge on the other hand was allowed to let his immaturity shine through, followed the £££ in leaving City just as they were joining Chelsea in the big bucks elite then suffered a revolving door of managers and limited opportunities behind Drogba, Anelka, Torres etc. In the environment Welbeck has enjoyed, it might have been considerably different but I'm hoping the player we've seen at Anfield of late is one who has learnt from his mistakes and somewhat humbled by his experience at Chelsea.
So what says the mailbox? Equally talented peers or is one the superior prospect? Perhaps Roy Hodgson holds the answer, as whoever proves they 'won' this debate through next season is England's likely #9 in Brazil alongside Rooney & Walcott whilst the 'loser' settles as the understudy...
Welbeck The New Park?
I wrote (unsuccessfully) after the game that Welbeck was the new Ji-Sung Park. All work rate, no end product. Full of 'nearly' moments where people commend him for trying hard. My heart sinks when Danny Welbeck has the ball in a good position because you just know nothing is going to come of it - he even has the Park ability of losing his balance at the slightest gust of wind. My Dad remarked that it's like he hasn't grown into his legs yet, that he's like Bambi. If all you can say about a player is that they work hard, then they ain't that great!
Obviously this Rooney talk doesn't surprise me. Yes, he's scored goals but he hasn't played well except the Fulham game (maybe Norwich too but I didn't see the full 90 minutes so don't know). The line about his fitness is always trotted out to excuse a bad performance, as though people can't accept he is well below what we all hoped he would be.
Having said that, I'd rather him on the pitch that Welbeck. At least you know Rooney MIGHT do something good, Welbeck is a no brainer.
The Sun gave Giggsy a 6 out of 10 for his man of the match performance against Madrid. This should be the case in point for when someone wishes to prove what a s***e newspaper that is.
Silvio (Rio and Vidic were immense) Dante
Three Points From A Regular
1) I'd love to see the look on the 'letter of the law' merchants' faces when they get a speeding ticket, points, possibly lose their job (etc) for doing 71mph on the motorway.
2) Surprised none of the papers have dovetailed the Rooney going and Ronny coming back stories (maybe they have, sorry if I've missed that one).
3) Mourinho to take over the reigns short term, with possibly Laudrup after that?
Mourinho's next move (as with Ronaldo) comes down to a choice it would seem between money or legacy. I would not really begrudge either of them moving to PSG, or even City (putting my logic hat on). It's their career, they're entitled to make of it what they can.
The biggest factor in favour of them both coming to Old Trafford though is the fact that they're both incredible egomaniacs. I think it stands to reason that we couldn't offer either of them what they could get elsewhere money-wise, but what we could offer in terms their personal stories...their legacy. I'm hoping this will swing it.
And after Mourinho's sailed us through the post SAF choppy seas, and hopefully stamped his own success on the club...who better than that lovely Mr Laudrup for the longer term.
Marky B, MUFC
Why United Will Never Sell Rooney
There is absoloutely no chance United will sell Rooney. Although similar comparisons have already been made, it is next to impossible that Alex will build a new side from the scratch. In fact he himself said it this year, "Van Persie completes him". With Fletcher out, Ferdinand, Giggs, Scholes more or less retired by next year, there is only so much that transfer money can buy.
With FFP around the corner and United's academy not springing up next decade's superstars, Alex is not going to sell his most bankable English asset. Already next year's transfer targets include a left back, a creative midfielder (since last three years) and at least one supersonic winger. Adding a striker to that list to replace Rooney's influence especially in key matches is out of budget even for Manchester United. And you dont bet on a Scotsman to short change a penny for a dime.
Sagar Deo, MUFC, Mumbai
We Were The Better Side...Now Let's Move On
Some observations for fellow United supporters:
Of course it was a terrible decision but there is is very little likelihood that it was a conspiracy or following some agenda. Even if you think it was some plot, it's best to blot out the thought and get over it.
In effect, Nani tried to control the ball at shoulder height and Arbeloa came from behind at speed and ran into his boot. It probably should not have been a foul but it is reasonable that a foul be called, and even a yellow card given, to discourage any temptation to use similar circumstances to deliberately cause injury on another occasion.
United should have coped with the sending-off better. On the other hand, when they were chasing the game, after Ronaldo's goal, they created more and better chances with 10 men against 11 than Madrid did when they were chasing the game with 11 against 11, or even against 10.
As Sarah Winterburn suggests elsewhere, this was not a defeat like some others in the recent past. United were the better team and lost so there is less to do to win next time but we must acknowledge that 's**t happens' to everyone so don't play the victim too much.
Most of the people on here arguing that the red card was entirely justified are the same ones who have been whinging for months that this is a low-quality United team and predicting/hoping that Madrid would whup their asses over these two matches. They were very wrong; this United are better than RM and, without Ronaldo, in a different league. Even the various bitters can't avoid seeing this, so they try a different angle.
Finally, the double is on but, even if United had won on Tuesday, I doubt they are good enough for a treble, yet!.
Judging The Players
If I am not too late, I would like to add some conclusions of my own on a player-by-player basis. I will not discuss the card as that has been discussed at length, but want to focus more on the tactics used in the game. I apologise in advance for the length!
De Gea - Had surprisingly little to do before the red card was shown, and could do nothing about the two goals. Was only really called into action when United pushed forward in the last 15 minutes and were caught on the counter. Came up trumps on those occasions.
Rafael - Yes, he could have been closer to Ronaldo for his goal, but overall played really well. I know goals are what matters, but except for his goal Ronaldo was kept very quiet (albeit with Giggs' help). Was also commanded to attack when possible and pin back Coentrao, and he was visibly and understandably tired by the time of his substitution.
Ferdinand/Vidic - Both performed admirably and did not put a foot wrong. Again, each cannot be held accountable for the goals conceded, and Vidic even came close to scoring a couple himself. Talking of which, Lopez played a phenomenal game and kept out all that came his way. Considering United had the better chances, he was my man of the match.
Evra - Building on his recent improvements, I noticed United were caught out on the left flank only once all game. I am not sure if that was his fault or Nani's, but nothing came of it in any case. Di Maria's early withdrawal may have had something to do with his comfortable performance.
Nani - I originally questioned Sir Alex's team selection, but came to realise Nani's tactical use as the game progressed. He was included as an outlet, someone to take the ball and do something himself whilst support arrived. Rooney lacks this flair and, whilst he would have provided additional energy, would have sacrificed himself too much for the team. I think this is best exemplified at Real Madrid's corners. RVP has always been the first 'defender' at corners (notice how he clears away a significant amount), and was positioned as such. Nani however was left as the outfield striker to counter quickly. He has the confidence and ability to take players on. Rooney on the other hand would have held the ball up more and looked to play someone else in. Nani's tactical importance was highlighted when he was sent off. Yes this did mean United played with 10 men, and yes this did mean that Welbeck moved away from Alonso (more on that later). But it also meant that United had no outlet to ease the pressure off themselves when defending.
Carrick/Cleverley - Both central midfielders were tasked with restricting space and closing down angles. Cleverley brought energy and Carrick poise, all of which helped control Madrid until the red card. Following this, there was little they could do once Mourinho introduced an additional midfielder. In addition, the card meant that Welbeck moved to the wing such that Alonso was no longer nullified and was able to work further upfield playing his accurate and penetrative cross-field passes. The only negative was that Carrick was too easily shaken by Modric's swivel of the hips leading to his goal.
Giggs - Again, this was a player I questioned when I saw the team sheet and thought stamina and energy would be needed. Despite my misgivings and his age, Giggs was able to provide this. Ably assisted Rafael in keeping Ronaldo quiet, and played some exquisite passes himself (one to Van Persie springs to mind). Was perhaps at times risky with his challenges, often sliding in from behind, but managed to regain possession more often than not. His experience proved to be very useful.
Welbeck - Arguably the most important player tactically, he remained fixed as Alonso's shadow. Brilliantly stayed close to his man and provided a willing runner onto through balls. As always, his finishing let him down. As mentioned above, his importance was highlighted when he was shifted to the left, giving Alonso the space denied him until now and allowing an extra man to pressure Carrick and Cleverly.
Van Persie - Was meant to be the difference at this level and came up short in both legs. He had several chances but could not put anything away. However he did well in holding up the ball and flicking it on to Welbeck and Nani in the second leg and Kagawa in the first. Nonethless, I am left with the feeling that it should have been his name adorning the papers. Could have and should have, but didnt.
To summarise, Ferguson prepared a tactical plan that, despite my original misgivings, worked perfectly. He set out his team to deny Madrid space, with the correct balance between attack and defence. Many have pointed out that Madrid could have perhaps gone on to progress without the card, but I believe United were containing Madrid superbly - I cannot recall many clear chances Madrid had before the card, whilst United had quite a few. Where Ferguson came short however was in responding to change - as has been pointed out Mourinho was quick to capitalise on Nani's red card whilst Ferguson waited until his team were down before doing anything. Having said that, United were very close to winning in any case and were let down by some poor finishing from Van Persie, Rooney, Welbeck and Giggs in both legs. It was an absorbing match and one that was well worth admiring from a tactical viewpoint as both a lesson in how to set up a team and how to change it as a game progresses.
Some Liverpool Supporters...
In answer to Gary (proud but disappointed) Vance, MUFC: I am pleased to tell you that sane LFC supporters do exist who didn't think it was a red card. We just didn't get our mails published. And we all also thought it was an incident of the most sublime poetic justice.
Canuck LFC (See, there is hope for us yet I guess)
The Real Reason Fergie Hasn't Retired
Listening to the radio the other day I heard a fact that I already knew but kind of had me thinking non the less. In his 25 years of managing Manchester United, Ferguson has only won the European cup twice. To me, this is actually a shocking fact when you consider the money the club has spent over those years, the calibre of players he's had at his disposal and the number of times his won domestic competitions. As an LFC fan, I can imagine the likes of Gary 'proud but disappointed' Vance (more on him in a bit) claiming that I'm just a player-hater. But let's really think about this. Jose Mourinho has won the Champions League twice in the last decade and even a 'Fat Spanish Waiter' has won it once and reached the final a couple years later. I think the lack of European Cups gets brushed under the carpet far to quickly in order for him to be praised for his other achievements which as a man who respects success, I can't argue with.
This fact is a blemish on his achievements and he knows it. It is the reason he is yet to retire. I honestly believe if he had won it maybe two more times by now he would have. Deep inside he knows that a truly great manager would have and should have lifted that title more times with the resources his had. I gave up on predictions but I'm going to stick my neck out and say if he wins it next year, he will retire. This is even if he some how doesn't win the PL title this year or the next.
Now to our paranoid ManYoo fan. Listen Gary mate, I don't need to prove to you that I'm sane but I thought the red card was harsh. But look at Nani's reaction once he connected with Arbeloa: he feigned injury as if HE was the victim. If the ref was considering a yellow before, the fact Nani tried to fool him might have turned it to a red. You claim 'United aren't built to play like Chelsea'. Are you forgetting your away performance to Barca in the same competition just a few years back? Yea that one. The one that got you to the final. And on the performance of the ten men. Your team automatically decided they could no longer keep the ball and just sat deep straight away. There was no 'feeling out the situation period' for a lack of better words. At least see how Madrid would have dealt with the team playing the same as they were. Does a 4-4-1 formation automatically mean you can no longer string a few passes together?
Aaaaany way. When your club has lifted the big Eared Trophy THREE more times, than you can throw your European weight around.
Ssino (Na na na na naaa! You can't catch us - tongue out and blowing it with lips) LFC
Time To Go, Fergie...
Red card or not, Ferguson's behaviour on Tuesday was despicable. Instead of screaming, crying and flailing his arms like a senile old fool, he should have been adjusting his team accordingly to cope with the sending-off.
As for being too 'distraught' to face the media, this was simply a way to divert the the attention away from his own managerial ineptness and lay the blame on someone else, as per usual with 'Sir' Alex Ferguson.
I think it is time for Ferguson to quit. I understand he has been a fantastic football manager, but his behaviour when the chips are down is embarrassing. When things go wrong It would be nice for Ferguson to stand up and admit that he, or his players made a mistake. This constant harassing and insulting of referees has to stop.
As for Tuesday, it would have been interesting to see Ferguson's reaction if the red card incident had been the other way round, with Arbeloa kicking Nani, especially if a red card had not been brandished. No doubt Nani would be lucky to still be alive and Alvaro Arbeloa would be facing the death penalty.
This is all just typical Ferguson. Time to retire.
Neutrals Laughing At United Too
Lots of Man Utd fans getting angry at Liverpool fans taking delight in their Champions League exit. Please don't forget about us neutrals who find it just as funny. The reason it is funny:
1. For the last few decades Man Utd have had a better team than most in this country and steamrollered their opposition, during which they have also had a very particular way with officials and more often than not been the beneficies of some major Refereeing mistakes. Too often.
2. Man Utd fans also have a lot to say about opposition teams that turn up at Old Trafford just to defend. They call it boring. They claim the other team has no bottle and isn't giving it a go. The other team see the gap in quality and try to give themselves the best chance to win the game, but apparently that isn't fair.
3. Through drawing Real Madrid it appears Man Utd came up against a team who had more quality than them. So what did Man Utd do? Did they recklessly seek to attack and take them apart or did they do the very thing their fans chastise teams in this country for and set up to defend, surrender possession, and look to play on the break. That's right, they did the latter.
4. So what happened from Man Utd was two very good performances, the sort that us supporters of 'small' teams are proud of when we play the big boys. Evening the playing field by playing well as a team and defending well - showing spirit and giving yourself a chance. But then what happened is something else we small team supporters are familiar with too. The team with better players don't play well and out of nowhere get a refereeing decision that turns the game. Well, well, well.
So you see it wasn't the decision that any of us found hilarious at all, it was the circumstance in which it happened which resonated so well with all of us. It was Man Utd playing the role of underdog for once. It was Man Utd playing a way that their fans claim other teams shouldn't do against them. It was the team with 'lesser' players defying the odds and then getting screwed. It was the cruel defeat which you felt happened independent of the performance of the players. It was exactly the sort of thing that Man Utd have done to smaller teams many times.
So you'll have to excuse the s***-eating grin I had on my face for that last 30mins of that game, and I know from speaking with many friends over the last 24hrs they all felt exactly the same way. Sometimes football gives you a little back when you're not expecting it. It's also hilarious to see the reaction of many Man Utd fans, who are reacting as though what happened last night has never happened to another team in the history of football. Although fair play to the odd smattering of fans who have taken it on the chin and are getting on with it.
Mike, Saint in Manchester
Celtic: An Italian's Perspective
I was watching the Juventus-Celtic match last night with my old man. He is a portly 5 foot 4 Italian fella, and he always supports the Italian teams in the Champions League (except if this includes Inter or Sampdoria, but we will leave that for another day). At 1-0 he turns to me and says, "These Scots will never learn, they run and run and run like it's a cup final and they will always get beaten by the superior technical team on the counter." I agreed and we watched the rest of the game pretty much in silence eating a bunch of italian cliche foods. When the match finished he turned to me and said, "I love the Scots, they went to Turin against one of the best teams in the world 3-0 down, and cheered for 90 minutes, in Italy they can't even fill a stadium on derby day."
Did Celtic play with passion and they did so for their fans? Or do their fans' passion for the game cause a reaction on the pitch? I am not entirely sure, but either way while the result wasn't the miracle they had hoped for, I applaud the fans. Italian football teams whilst in a minor renaissance in footballing terms, sure could do with some of this in the stadiums, and not just on the bar seats.
Lori Peri, 26, CFC
Big-Ups To Buffon
Just wanted to say fair play to Celtic last night. They played well and gave it 100% but simply were not good enough. However I have to mention that save by Buffon. probably the best save I have seen in many a year. The man is almost certainly the best goalkeeper I have ever seen.
Steve Limerick, Ireland